Nothing Dearer than Christ”
Oblate letter of the Pluscarden Benedictines, Elgin, Moray, Scotland. IV30 8UA.
Ph. (01343) 890257 fax 890258
DMB series No 15
EULOGIUS THE STONECUTTER
Abba Daniel and his disciple put in at a village in the Thebaid where they are greeted by an elderly lay person, a large man, completely grey-headed', named Eulogius, After Daniel and his disciple return to Scetis, Daniel tells him Eulogius' story.
“That old man is called ‘Eulogius’; by trade he is a stonecutter. He earns a keration a day from his manual labour, eating nothing until evening, and when evening comes he goes out to the village and takes home whatever foreigners he finds and feeds them, and the leftover fragments he throws to the dogs.
When I was youngster I went up to sell my handiwork at that village and at evening he came and took me and other brothers with me, and gave us lodging. When I went there and saw the man's virtue, I began to fast every day of the week and entreat God to provide him with greater wages so he might have more money and do good for even more people. After fasting for three weeks, I was half dead on account of my ascetic regimen, and I saw that it was as though I was standing in the Church of the Holy Resurrection.
A young man was sitting upon the holy stone and Eulogius was standing at his right, I then saw angels emptying a very large amount of money into Eulogius' lap and Eulogius' lap was able to hold it, however much they kept pouring. When I woke up I knew that I had been heard and I gave glory to God. When Eulogius went out to do his work, he struck rock, heard a hollow-sounding thunk, so he struck again and found a small hole; again he struck the rock and found a cave filled with money. Amazed, Eulogius said to himself, 'What should I do with it? If I take it to the village, the owner will hear about it and will come and take it and I'll be in danger. It would be better if I go out into the countryside where no one knows me'. Hiring animals as though he were using them to haul stones, at night he hauled the money to the riverside and put the money in a boat and sailed to Byzantium. Justin, who was an old man, was emperor at that time. Eulogius gave a large amount of money to him and the emperor made him procurator of the holy Praetorian Guard. He also bought a large house and to this day it is called 'the house of the Egyptian'.
Two years later I saw that young man again in a dream in the Church of the Holy Resurrection, as before. A little later I saw Eulogius being dragged away by his hair from the young man by an Ethiopian. Waking up, I said to myself, 'God help me, a sinner!' Taking my sheepskin cloak, I left for the village in order to sell my handiwork, expecting to find Eulogius. Late evening came and no one invited me home, so I got up and made inquiries of an old woman. Sitting down beside me, she said, , Abba, sir, we used to have a certain stonecutter here and he used to do many good things for the foreigners. When God saw his works, he gave him grace, and today, so we hear, he is a patrician'. When I heard these things, I said to myself, '1 committed this murder!' and I boarded ship and sailed to Byzantium.
Diligently seeking the house of Eulogius the Egyptian, I sat in front. of his gate until he came out. I saw him coming with great ostentation and I called out to him, "Have mercy on me! I wish to speak with you in private about some matter!" but he turned away from me and his escort beat me instead. I left in search of a ship and, finding one bound for Alexandria, I boarded ship alone and sat by myself, feeling discouraged.
Three months later, I heard that Justin had died and Justinian was now emperor in his place. Then a little later Hypatius and Dexikratius and Pompeius and Eulogius the procurator rose up against him. The first three were seized and beheaded and all their possessions were confiscated, as was Eulogius' estate. Eulogius fled Constantinople at night and the emperor ordered that he was to be killed wherever he was found. Then he fled and went to his own village and exchanged his clothing for that of the country folk who lived there.
The whole village gathered to see Eulogius, 'It's good to have you back. We heard that you had become a patrician’. He said to them, 'Indeed. If I had become a patrician, you would be coming to me with petitions. No, that was another Eulogius, who is also from here. I was in the Holy Land'. So Eulogius came to his senses and said, 'Eulogius, you wretch, get up, take your stonecutting tools, before you also lose your head. There is no royal court here!' A little later I went up to that village and when evening fell Eulogius came. Taking me, along with the others he had found, he washed my feet, as was his custom, and set a table for us.
After we had eaten I said to him, 'How are you, Abba Eulogius?' He said to me,” Abba, pray for me, sir. I am a wretch, having nothing to my name”. I said to him, 'I wish that you had not even had what you had!' He said to me, 'Why, Abba, sir? What have I ever done to offend you?' I said to him, 'What haven't you done to offend me!'
Then I laid out for him everything that had happened. Both of us wept and he said to me, 'Pray, Abba, that God sends me what I need and from now on I will follow the right track'.
I said to him, 'Truly, brother, do not expect Christ to ever entrust you with anything else as long as you are in this world except for this keration, the fruit of your labour'.
You see? God has now seen to it all these years that each day he has the strength to earn the keration from his manual labour.”
FROM THE OBLATEMASTER'S DESK
“Dear sisters and brothers how great is our enthusiasm when we first set out upon some good path by the grace of God. So it is with the Christian life; so it is with monastic life; so it is with oblation.
The story is told by the desert Fathers of the monk who was a hard worker who appeared to his spiritual Father to be becoming crushed by his work—so he observed him closely to see what was happening and how this was coming about. He also prayed that he might be enlightened spiritually as to what was going on.
Very soon as he observed him he saw that all the time a dark little demon was at his side as he worked, urging him on. Whenever he rested or slowed in pace the little demon would phrenetically goad him into excessive work and action and so it was by day and by night so that he was unable to pray or do anything useful and would indeed soon fall ill.
The spiritual Father prayed more and then approached the monk and the monk who up until then whose eyes had been unable to see the little demon—his eyes were opened and he saw the trap into which he had fallen and by God’s grace was restored to health.
So it is with zealous Christians and monks and Oblates too—especially the zealous aspirant. The devil seeing that he cannot attack that zeal goads it to an inhuman excess to break the will and spirit. Prayer going out the window the trap is closed and to quote the first reading—like the loincloth we become “good for nothing”.
Recently I’ve had aspirant Oblates devouring spiritual books, men and women full of zeal, voracious for prayer, for the Divine Office, usually the whole office and perhaps the monastic office, spending long periods in lectio and every other practice and devotion they come across. Being in the middle of their lives they often have children and sometimes dependent parents in old age, demanding work with unreasonable hours etc., etc. Finally I get a letter saying that Oblation is just too much. Their commitments and duties are just so great that they have no time left for Oblation.
I then think of the little demon and the misplaced zeal that drives to distraction and says Oblation is just “one more darn thing”—the straw etc...
On the contrary our Oblate life is our whole life—not the holy bits. We cannot opt out of life –God’s gift.
Oblation is like the mustard seed or the leaven that grows and grows till the whole is transformed, but the mustard seed needs the rest of the world to grow in and the leaven, the yeast needs all that flour & dough.
Oblation, as also monastic life, as also Christian life, is the whole transformed reality, transformed world, and transformed life. The essential “bit”, the mustard or the leaven, is worse than useless on its own. Oblate life is life with a capital L, Life transformed in Christ. If we’ve no time for this transformed life we have no time for Christ. Christ is the life of our souls as Blessed Columba Marmion said. Christ came with the leaven of the one thing necessary without which we do not grow; indeed without Christ we cannot rise. Let us not be afraid to expose the dough of our life to Christ’s leaven by our Oblation, our self-offering which we renew today.
“Becoming Fire Through the Year with the Desert Fathers & Mothers” p. 180 ( good bibliography for the Desert Fathers )Cistercian Publications, Liturgical Press Collegeville Minnesota ISBN 978-0-87907-525-5 ; quotation itself from”Witness to Holiness: Abba Daniel of Scetis”, edited by Tim Vivian. Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications. The Desert Fathers are a fertile field for both monk & oblate.
From The Oblatemaster’s Desk --
In fact the Oblatemaster’s two desks, (one in our cell and one in the Oblate Office both of them literally nine inches deep in letters and papers to be sorted, much unanswered.) The oblatemaster is way behind after three months in Africa, an Oblate Weekend and sundry other items, struggling to get out this, the Oblate Letter of the Autumn quarter of the year—
edition having been produced and sent out
(!)before going to Kristo Buase where the Summer edition was re-sent with Stop Press additions for the chosen few with email, from an Internet Café in Techiman the local county capital. This quarter is in fact almost six months later! (hence some of you saying “ I don’t seem to have heard from you”).
All this goes to bolster the fact that while we are immortal souls we are incarnated and thus very much subject to the limitations of time and place, poverty and riches, heat & cold, sickness and health. The way that we relate to our incarnation, the way we order our material existence is not neither here nor there in regard to out immortal destiny. We work out our salvation in the order or disorder of our lives. St Bernard would ask God to order his desires, and thus bring order and peace to his life. “PAX” is our Benedictine motto and it can only come about if through prayer we allow God to take hold of the material dispositions of our life even in all its seeming limitations.
Our “Monastic Voice” from a “Desert Father” helps to bring this home. Riches may be a curse, while straitened circumstances may be a sign of God’s help and blessings. Were I to have a flexible, infinite budget for the Oblate department, it might be the ruination of the Oblatemaster, of the monastery and of the Oblates. Christ is the life of the soul, of the monk and of the oblate.
The secular oblate is immersed in a particular way in the material locale of his/her life in all its limitations and possibilities. Material or physical constraints are not thereby spiritual constraints. “Bad” life conditions are not necessarily a stumbling-block to spiritual opportunity. Eulogius shows us that the reverse can be, and has at times been the case.
We are to hope in God for salvation, not a budget or the state, the company or the council. We owe our soul, bought and paid for by the redemptive blood of Christ, to Christ our Life—and not to the “company store”, bank or Mortgage Company. Even the material constraints of my life are God’s gift to me and to my spiritual upbuilding. “Crux spes unica!”
Prayer Intentions and Events
Br Antony made his Solemn Profession at Kristo Buase monastery on the anniversary of the Dedication, the 6
August, The Transfiguration.
Fathers Pierre-Marie & Peter Thu have returned to Vietnam after two years here—Fr. Peter Thu’s brother has just died ( also a monk, RIP ).
Br.Jan was clothed as a novice and is now Br. John (the Baptist, understood).
Please pray for
vocations to the monastery & for our Noviciate. Continue to pray in thanks for the Scottish Ordinariate especially for newly-ordained Fr. Stanley Bennie(Oban Cathedral) -----number two! We pray for new Oblates: Alice McLeod, Anne Morgan & Christina Clare Teresa Nicol; new novices, Rebecka Winell-Reid & John Wilson, any others omitted since going to press or for any other reason.
The General chapter of the Subiaco Congregation met in September and elected (re-elected) Abbot Bruno Marin as Abbot President.
About twenty Juniors met at the Abbey for a week in July and were privileged to have talks by Fr. Michael Casey OCSO—any books with his authorship to be recommended, and retreats given by him.
The UK Oblates Team (who arrange the Congress and inter-oblate website for the UK) met here at Pluscarden to make it possible for our Oblates to attend on the 15
September. Thank you! Pat Carrigan & Martin Gardner are now going to assist Jane Coll with the website. Bishop Moth also attended. The next Congress is near Rome in October next year—see the Congress website. Also the 3
National Oblate Retreat ( open to all oblates) is at Douai Abbey 10
May 2013—cost about £140, I think, also see the Oblate Team’s website.
for the repose of the souls of Oblates:- Beth Fallows, James Cairns, Colonel Gretton Foster, and pastoral assistant and Congress attendee, Margaret Coll, and for their bereaved.
Please pray sick Oblates especially
Bob Barr, Tom Devine, Mary Buist,
Gail Schmitz, Beth Fraser & her husband, Marie Clare Fernandez, Bob Clark, Nick Macrae’s son, Martin Macrae, Irene Coultard, David Paterson & his wife, Jacqui’s daughter, Sally, Deacon William Joss,
Eileen Grant & Eileen Kerr----both knee replacements,
Mary Roche, Poppy Sinclair, Pamela’s auntie Shirley, Ian Brodie, Carolyn Boardman, Val Farrelly and for all the sick, and those who care for them.
OBLATE WEEKEND 27
JULY TOOK PLACE AS CAN BE SEEN BELOW! Fraternity and edification were side by side. Martin Gardner is making a dvd of the whole thing and you can get your copies from him if you simply mail him at:- Dunmoir,18 Gurney St., STONEHAVEN, Kincardineshire, AB39 2EB or email him at
& all he asks is that you make a donation to the Abbey!—Thank you from all of us to Martin Gardner. There may be some written and other excerpts in the next issue & in PB and on the Oblate Congress Website.
Sermon for the Mass for the end of the Oblate Weekend, Monday, July 31st 2012 with Renewal of Oblation. (Other texts from the Oblate Weekend may be in future Oblate Letters as they become available.)
2nd to 5
August on CALDEY ISLAND (WALES!) to commemorate 100
anniversary of the conversion of the Caldey community. 12 places of fifteen already taken. £100 each plus your own travel. Name & contact details to me please saying that you intend to come. (There may be one or two more places so worth trying!)
St Mungo’s Chapter Glasgow
. As announced. Peter Aitken 11, Maxwell Grove, Glasgow. G41 5JP. Phone:0141 4272084.
St Margaret’s Chapter Dunfermline.
Pat Carrigan ------------at
St. Monica’s Chapter, Thurso
. Contact Jane Coll (website manager Benedictine-oblates) on 01847 851701 or at
St. Peter’s Chapter
. St.Peter’s Chapter Oblates Group The group meetings are held in Flat 19/ 3rd floor, Donview House, Seaton, Aberdeen. All meetings will be on the 1st Wednesday of the month except September and October Weds 12th September at 7.30pm Weds 10th October at 7.30pm Weds 7th November at 7.30pm Weds 5th December at 7.30pm For more information please speak to Brian Milne on Tel.no (01224) 485 781 or E-mail; email@example.com
St Mary’s Chapter Dundee
. Dates as agreed 11.30 at St. Mary’s High Street, Lochee, Dundee. -------info. St Mary’s, or
: As announced ( May alternate local/Pluscarden—local being Forres, Elgin, Fochabers )
PRAYERFUL MICHAELMAS BLESSINGS
Fr Martin pax